Morning Glory is the smartest, sharpest, funniest and most consistently entertaining comedy since The Devil Wears Prada, and no wonder. Both films were written by Aline Brosh McKenna. Both deal with similar themes—the can-do spirit of fresh newcomers in tough, jaded, and fatally pessimistic worlds, pitted against the cynicism of older, more competitive colleagues. The fashion world that Anne Hathaway hit head-on in Prada is not so different from the television industry Rachel McAdams struggles to conquer in Morning Glory.
Plunging from once-glamorous heights of quality, excitement and distinction, fashion and television have both hit rock bottom. The only thing challenging about either profession today is staying alive.
The sweet, plaque-free smile of McAdams is relentlessly captivating as she tackles the role of Becky Fuller, the new producer of Daybreak, the lowest rated of TV’s top network morning shows. Daybreak is a burial ground for every producer who has ever tried to save it, but for a girl with no national experience on network news, it’s a step up the career ladder.
Becky has enough grit and ambition to hit the ground running. She skins her knee before her first production meeting and it’s downhill from there as she faces the head-butting ego clash between past-his-prime anchorman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) and co-star Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), a ditsy former beauty queen.
As the center of the inevitable head-butting, Becky is a cheerful, ravaged office heroine going through the perils of Job. At 28, downsized by Good Morning, New Jersey, and with the bleakest of prospects for the future, she’s got to make this job work. Eternally optimistic, she takes on abysmal ratings, outdated studios, museum-piece camera equipment and a network CEO (Jeff Goldblum) who doesn’t expect her to last beyond the next commercial break.
Her one ray of hope is a new love interest with a fellow producer named Adam (Patrick Wilson), but as the demands of the show drives a wedge between them every time they move closer to his bedroom, Becky finds herself black and blue trying to save her love life, her reputation, her job, and Daybreak, too.
The best stuff in Morning Glory, a coin flip between one-liners, is in the first hour, when the Ford-Keaton team works up so much lather hating each other that he storms off the show and she calls him an “A-hole” while the cameras are still running. Pomeroy prefers stories about microfinance in Asia to segments on preparing baked Alaska. “Half the people who watch your show have lost their remotes—the other half is waiting for their nurse to turn them over,” he rants. “Peabodys, Emmys and a Pulitzer—and now this?” The hard-drinking rough guy with 40 years of broadcasting experience considers celebrity gossip, weather and cooking tips far beneath his dignity. All of which gives Ford a role that fits him like a glove. He gets to be gruff, granite-faced, mean-spirited, rude, pessimistic, never cracking a smile and scowling like a rat just died in the studio’s air-conditioning pipes. Think Dan Rather.
You also see a lot of New York before the first crack of dawn even veteran New Yorkers don’t see. You sure get your money’s worth, in more ways than one.
When it looks like Daybreak will fail, Becky fills the a.m. hours with the tackiest, most exaggerated and humiliating crap in TV history, in the name of ratings: Keaton sumo wrestling, the weatherman getting his butt tattooed on camera and worse. Naturally, the American public loves it, and the ratings go through the roof. The more the co-hosts insult each other, the more viewers can’t wait to tune in.
Unfortunately, the film is not flawless. In its final scramble to the finish line in time for a happy ending, Morning Glory strains credulity and comes dangerously close to falling to pieces. Ford’s character is often referred to as “the third-worst person in the world.” The second worst is Angela Lansbury “and she knows what she did.” Huh? No further explanation. The audience looks bewildered. Nobody laughs. If this is a joke, it backfires.
Still, I had such a good time watching Morning Glory that small caveats become churlish. The cast is perfect (scowling irascibly like Clifton Webb, Ford has never been this good). There’s a lot of eye candy. Some of the on-camera bitchery between the Ford-Keaton team is laugh-out-loud witty. For the most part, Morning Glory is a delicious movie that will make you jump for joy.